Lincoln falls short against Wheeler
CUMBERLAND — It all went according to plan for the No. 6 Lincoln boys soccer team for the first 48 minutes of its Division II semifinal against favored Wheeler Thursday night at Tucker Field.
The undermanned Lions soaked up plenty of pressure in the opening 25 minutes, and when they had an opportunity to use their size and athleticism on a set piece, they pounced when Chris Accardi headed a corner
“UNFORTUNATELY, THEY SAY THE EASIEST TIME TO SCORE A GOAL IS RIGHT AFTER THE OTHER TEAM SCORES A GOAL. THEY CAPITALIZED ON IT.”
kick back across the goal for Matt Carvalho to head into the net from six yards out.
Lincoln had its precious goal – but the lead was short lived. No. 2 Wheeler answered less than a minute later on a Braeden Cannon strike and then the senior leading scorer struck
— Lincoln coach John D’Aloisio
again in the 61st minute to finish off a move started by freshman midfielder Aiden Pastora.
Cannon’s goals were enough to lift the Warriors to a 2-1 victory and their first appearance in the finals.
“If we could’ve carried that lead for five minutes I think we would’ve picked up more momentum,” Lincoln coach John D’Aloisio said. “Unfortunately, they say the easiest time to score a goal is right after the other team scores a goal. They capitalized on it. We just didn’t get back on defense on the play and they took advantage.
“We spent some extra time on corner kicks in practice the last few days. We didn’t get a lot of them, but that’s how we scored. We just wanted a dead-ball play, but I thought we put pressure on them for a while.”
Lincoln’s best chance to tie the game came in the 68th minute when the Warriors committed a foul 25 yards from their own goal. Junior midfielder David Idarraga opted to try to bend the ball past junior goalie Ben Thornton at his near post, but Thornton dove to his left and palmed the ball away for a Lincoln corner. Thornton made six saves.
Wheeler will now spend the next two days developing a game plan to defeat No. 1 North Smithfield, which used a Justin Decelles goal to eliminate No. 4 Chariho, 1-0, Thursday in Johnston. While the Warriors have yet to play in a final, coach Eric Korytkowski’s Northmen are playing for their first D-II title. The Northmen won the 2005 D-IV and 2006 D-III titles.
“The kids need to be ready to go and we’re going to have a tough two days to get ready for that game,” Wheeler coach Oscar Zorrilla said. “It will definitely be an entertaining game and also very physical. Everyone is going to leave everything on the field.”
The Lions, who have been without the services of talented players like Alex Lopez and Jaden Smith because of injuries, spent the first 20 minutes Thursday soaking up tremendous amounts of pressure from a Wheeler side loaded with talented underclassmen. Senior goalie Tim Cullen, the hero of the penalty shootout win over Burrillville in the last round, was forced to make a point-blank save on a header in the eighth minute. Cullen made five saves before senior David Leonardi entered at halftime.
After failing to produce a corner kick in the first half, the Lions created three early in the second half. They scored the game’s opening goal in the 48th minute when Accardi blooped a header into the goal mouth where Carvalho was on hand to score his second goal in as many matches.
Wheeler answered less than a minute later. After giving away an innocuous free kick in the midfield, the Lions failed to get back on defense. Wheeler freshman winger Travis Cobain beat his defender and crossed the ball into the box where Cannon was on hand to slot a shot past Leonardi.
“Braeden is a special player and has a knack for the goal,” Zorrilla said. “He has 22 goals already this year and he just wants to keep on scoring.”
The Warriors grabbed the game-winning goal 12 minutes later when Pastora bisected Lincoln’s central defenders with a perfect ball that Jamey Mayer controlled and laid off to Cannon for a goal.
D’Aloisio removed a defender in favor of an attacking player in the final 15 minutes, but the Lions simply couldn’t find a way through Ivan Ruiz and the Wheeler defense.
“I’m very proud of these kids. We had one game late in the season where we had seven guys out, five starters” D’Aloisio said. “The kids turned it around. Frankly, this is a game we could’ve won if we caught a break. We just needed someone or something to spark us and get momentum. It’s great that we made it to the semifinals, but this still stings.”